President's Message


George A. Eapen, MD

November 28th, 2019:  Unity of Purpose

A score and seven years ago, a small coterie of intrepid visionaries formed a compact dedicated to advancing the art and science of bronchoscopy. In less than two years they established an organization and created a journal to disseminate their shared knowledge. Without any assurances of success and in the face of overwhelming skepticism they persevered and triumphed because of their unity of purpose. Over the subsequent years, this small band has grown more than twenty-fold and the mission has expanded to include all aspects of what has come to be known as Interventional Pulmonology. The tiny organization originally known as the American Association for Bronchology (AAB) became the American Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology (AABIP).  Our name changed to acknowledge the mission expansion while paying homage to the origin of the organization. Even the term “Interventional Pulmonologist” was not in the common lexicon until about ten years ago and remains mysterious for many because it is often used interchangeably as a verb and a noun. Given the amnesia of the years and the turbulence of growth, it has come time to reaffirm our shared vision and purpose.

The overarching aim of the AABIP is to advance the field of Interventional Pulmonology in order to enhance the care of our patients and alleviate their suffering. We seek to fulfil this mission by developing, implementing and disseminating evidence-based knowledge, techniques and skills using minimally invasive technologies. This requires us to direct efforts toward innovative research and discovery, rigorous education and training along with tireless advocacy for expanded access to the best care possible. We believe that all pulmonologists who use minimally invasive technologies to diagnose, stage or treat patients with thoracic diseases are practicing Interventional Pulmonology and as such, should share our organizational goals. We also believe that all individuals with a passion for advancing any of our four broad mission areas have an important role in our organization. Under the banner of the AABIP, our members clearly outlined a distinct body of knowledge, tested using a validated examination and established the first IP Board certification process in the world. In less than 5 years, there are over 350 board certified Interventional Pulmonologists in the United States, with more coming online every year. To ensure that patients increasingly receive the care they need and deserve, other members worked tirelessly to establish and promote dedicated yearlong IP fellowship training programs that are now formally accredited using transparent standards recognized by multiple national professional organizations. As many IP fellowship program directors can attest, the quality and caliber of applicants to IP Fellowship training programs is nothing short of spectacular and as a group we should all be very proud of the fact that we are able to attract such bright and talented young people of destiny into our specialty. It is however important to note that these herculean efforts are being undertaken by the AABIP with the hope of eventually mainstreaming IP training and certification by transitioning these functions to the ABIM and ACGME respectively. 

The beating heart of the AABIP unquestionably resides within the doughty members our various committees. Our organization may be small but we are mighty. What we lack in terms of financial resources and infrastructure is more than made up for by the expertise, ingenuity, passion and dedication of our all-volunteer committee members. In all our endeavors, the watchword is “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”.  As an example, the Research Committee has championed the research mission of the AABIP since its inception with an annual competitive research grant for young researchers in IP along with two colossally popular annual research symposia where interesting ideas are discussed, exciting findings are presented, and fruitful collaborations are born. Similarly, the Education Committee and its subcommittees have engaged in a host of wide-ranging projects that span monthly webinars and journal clubs, annual IP Fellowship boot camps and even our flagship annual AABIP conference. As members, we can all be justifiably proud of our very own annual conference. While the inaugural conference exceeded our expectations, the second conference was wildly successful with almost 450 attendees, attesting to the breadth and quality of the educational experience for attendees. The next conference is scheduled to take place in Tampa, Florida from August 13th to the 15th, 2020 and promises to be even bigger and better. The Education Committee also conducts annual Board review courses, the annual AABIP PG course at CHEST and a recently introduced web based biostatistics course. In addition to these highlighted committees, there are many others focused on improving the membership experience, organizing elections, ensuring advocacy and improving our communication efforts. 

In all, there are currently over 150 AABIP members actively engaged in various capacities throughout the operations of our organization, but this represents far too small a fraction of our overall membership. There is an enormous amount of work to be done and we desperately need more people to pitch in and help. We would ideally like to see every member engaged in an AABIP mission, but at the very least more than 50% of our members should be actively engaged in operational projects at any one time. This is a grassroots organization that is completely dependent for its bandwidth on the engagement and enthusiasm of our members. We need stalwart members to heed this call and take up the cause. Actively seek out opportunities to serve the organization and advance the field. Be prepared to readily man a post where you are needed rather than one that you desire. Not for personal recognition, gain or glory but rather as a servant leader who places the needs of the organization first and seeks to further our shared mission. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your organization can do for you, but rather what you can do for your organization. We are at an important inflection point for our specialty, a time when we are starting to be recognized as a distinct entity by others. As a specialty, we cannot afford to be fragmented by parochial self-seeking or petty rivalries. To cement our identity and advance our field we all need to move forward with the same unity of purpose we had at the birth of our organization.